The traditional way to divide up gymnastics teams into groups for practice is by level and there is certainly merit in this method when it comes to compulsory coaching. It is probably easier to have all the same compulsory level together when it comes to teaching the compulsory routines.
Compared With Their Own Age
This however gives a false view of the actual abilities of the gymnastics team members, both to them and to the coach. A 12 year old Level 6 may look magnificent in comparison to 8 and 9 year olds in the Level 6 group, but would fade in status in a group of all 14 year olds with some Elites.
A True View
Grouping by age gives you and the gymnast a true view of their abilities in relation to others of their own age and maturity. A good gymnast of any age is going to work to be or become competitive with the others in their group.
Stack Your Age Groups
Grouping like this also allows for easier decisions about which Level the team and to some degree the gymnasts will be most successful at. If they are unable to beat the best gymnasts at one Level, they may be winners for themselves or the team at a lower Level.
Gymnasts Work Out Best with Their Own Age Group
It should already be apparent to you that moving gymnasts up well above their age group or level is a dangerous experiment. There are social issues and gymnasts will compare themselves to the other gymnasts in their group without taking into account their age and this may give them negative feedback, they don’t deserve.
Gymnast Always Dropout If They Are Placed in Too Old or Too High a Group
Even in regular gymnastics classes, it is true that moving up gymnasts above the Level and age group they naturally fall into results in dropouts almost 100% of the time. This is a most foolhardy thing to do with above average.
A Full Team Contingent
Ideally, it would be nice to have 7 – 10 of each age group. Tryouts or traveling team tryouts each year would involve picking the best of each age group and Level.
Steady Team Performance
Grouping this way ensures steadier team performance over the years. If certain age groups become depleted by attrition, more intense recruiting for gymnasts of that age from the general gymnastics population can occur. This also helps stabilize finances for the team.
There may be a more harsh natural selection process with this system on older lower level gymnasts. It may be more unlikely to end up with teenage Compulsory gymnasts. It seems equally likely that gymnasts would try harder to keep up with others their age and perhaps perform at their peak. Older gymnasts may very well feel more comfortable practicing with their peers even if they are not at as high a level, instead of working with much younger gymnasts.
A Steady Supply of High Level Gymnasts
Assuming your program and coaching is capable of producing Elites, your team should have a steady supply of National level and Elite Level gymnasts every year as some of the gymnasts in an age group will have reached those levels every year.
Help Prevent Burn-Out
This system should also tend to minimize burning out gymnasts too early by putting too much pressure on or practicing too much at too early an age.
It may be necessary to group gymnasts in two year or three year age spans if insufficient coaches or coaches of insufficient quality are available. Because of attrition, it may be especially necessary at the older age group levels. This larger age grouping should be done considering, above all, maturity levels.
Two Year Groupings
Three Year Groupings
Build a Large Program
This system may not be suitable for all gyms, especially those with only one or two team coaches, but it has some advantages and should certainly be considered for any large Elite development oriented program.